Major January tournament series are underway at 888poker and PartyPoker. The newly merged Spanish-French PokerStars network will accept foreign players via PokerStars.es. Two police officers have been charged with obstructing an investigation into an underground poker game in Wichita. These stories and more in the weekend roundup Hit and Run.

Blizzardfest 2018

For the past year and a bit, PartyPoker and 888poker have scheduled their thrice-annual tournament series to coincide with PokerStars TCOOP, SCOOP and WCOOP. Interestingly, the first to back away from that conjunction has been PokerStars, which has elected not to run the Turbo Championship of Online Poker this year, replacing it with the recently-concluded Winter Series, plus a new, non-championship Turbo Series coming up in February.

888poker is also showing signs of backing off, as the XL Blizzard series, which began last Thursday, is scaled back significantly from last year’s XL Eclipse and XL Inferno. Powerfest is also scaled back relative to its spring and fall runs last year, though its $15 million in combined guarantees is still larger than last January’s series.

Both series have produced some early stars. Niklas Astedt, who goes by “tutten7” on 888poker and “lena900” on PocketFives is one of the world’s top online tournament players, currently third by PocketFives reckoning. He made two big final tables in XL Blizzard yesterday, but still has quite a bit of work to do if he wants to catch up with his countryman Simon “C Darwin2” Mattsson, who holds a commanding lead on PocketFives at the moment.

Meanwhile, Team PartyPoker pro Roberto Romanello did almost equally well on the opening day of Powerfest, making two final tables.

Quick Hitters

– Controversial bitcoin-based gambling site Betcoin has temporarily backpedaled on shutting down its poker room. It had originally said it would split up money collected towards its bad beat jackpot and return it to players based on their contributions. It now says that it has found it impossible to do so fairly and will reopen the poker room and gradually lower the requirements to win the bad beat jackpot until someone does so. Not everyone is happy about this, particularly those who’ve already gone broke or withdrawn their balances, and will now have to redeposit if they want their chance at the money.

– PokerStars.fr and PokerStars.es merged their liquidity last week. Now, PokerStars.es has announced that it will begin accepting foreign players. This comes as a bit of a surprise, as PokerStars.fr formerly allowed foreign players, but stopped doing so last year. Taxation is lower in Spain, however, so it’s now apparent that the plan all along was to force international players to re-register in the lower taxed jurisdiction if they want to play on the European network.

– Two Wichita police officers have been charged with obstructing an investigation. They were asked by the organizer of an underground poker game whether there was an undercover officer in attendance, and allegedly helped him to determine that there was.

A bad beat jackpot of over $1 million went off at the Motor City Casino in Detroit, setting a new US record.

– The poker world’s cryptocurrency obsession continues, as Doug Polk’s crypto channel on YouTube has drawn over 100,000 subscribers in its first month.